Dear Colleague
One of the lessons that many will take from the present pandemic crisis is that disaster threats will increasingly reflect interdependencies that crisscross the globe. And, while this should be understood, the reality is that when it comes to anticipating or responding to global crises, conventional state-based systems have either been unwilling or unable – or perhaps both – to commit themselves to approaches that reflect the growing dimensions of interdependence.

Within that state-based system, there are of course sub-systems, such as UN agencies and programmes, that do attempt to identify and mitigate global hazards. Their focus, however, is generally short-term and their contributions based principally upon their particular institutional expertise. Too little is done to integrate their outputs in ways that truly reflect the dimensions and dynamics of growing interdependencies. In other words, the importance and implications of multidimensional mutual self-interests – interdependencies – in anticipating and preparing for possible global hazards are not adequately understood.

Here, a first step towards exploring appropriate systems might begin with defining what we mean by ‘interdependencies’.
It was a central theme when Humanitarian Futures reflected on tensions between Mutual Self Interest versus Compassion, and it relates strongly to the report, Exploring Alternative Ways of Understanding Humanitarian Crisis and Solutions in the Key Findings section of our website

As that report suggests
Crisis threats and their implications are increasingly fluid and ‘borderless’. More and more they impact in myriad ways, creating diverse vulnerabilities as well as intensifying them, and in so doing give a whole new meaning to the nature and dimensions of ‘the affected’. 

...the wide range of self-interests that result from increasingly fluid crisis drivers means that ‘humanitarian actors’ are not limited to any one sector, but self-interests and identified mutual self-interests can identify the various cross- sectoral, cross-disciplinary expertise and approaches that might be required.

We need, then, to understand not only what we mean by appropriate systems, but also the context, the broad constructs  – the architecture – in which they would operate and their potential impacts.

Might we be witnessing new and different kinds of global architecture in which systems may overlay or perhaps in certain instances even by-pass the conventional international state construct? Going beyond the capacities of states, per se, the prospect of evolving architectures may reflect systems better able to identify global challenges, to anticipate them and determine their sources and impacts and even appropriate responses to them.


With this in mind, we are delighted to let you know that members of the Humanitarian Futures team will be leading a nine month project, entitled, Towards an International Architecture for Managing Global Threats, based at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and supported by King’s College, London.
The project, as you can see in the summary has four core objectives:
  1. To explore the sorts of systems that might be emerging or have emerged that link functional interdependencies across a variety of sectors and interests, globally; and, in so doing, to assess assumptions about their effectiveness and utility;
  2. From there, to explore the sorts of formal and informal global constructs – the architectures – in which such systems operate, and then to consider alternative architectures in which systems might increasingly operate in the short and longer-term;
  3. Based upon the first two objectives, to identify the implications of plausible global architectural constructs and related systems upon models of society and governance;
  4. To provide a set of ‘tools’, all described in greater detail in the project summary, and include an Audiovisual Platform, a Video Debate Forum and a Planning Guide to provide decision-makers and policy planners with important perspectives on emerging systems and alternative architectures. We believe that they will enhance the perspectives and opportunities needed for those with humanitarian roles and responsibilities to deal with ever more complex humanitarian threats and crises. 
If you want to learn more about these unusual outputs, you’ll find more information at the end of the Towards an International Architecture for Managing Global Threats project summary.
If the project and its outputs should prove of interest to you, we would be delighted if you would let us know. You might have systems that you might wish to propose that should be part of the research, or you may wish to be interviewed by one of the HF Team for the project, or you might want to comment on the overall project, its objectives, possible strengths and possible weaknesses. All will be taken into account and credit acknowledged.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us.
In the meantime, we do hope despite the global crisis that we continue to face, this letter nevertheless finds you flourishing.

As always, we very much look forward to staying in touch, and please never hesitate to forward any comments or questions you might have.
With our very best wishes
The Humanitarian Futures team

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